According to Theo PriestleyCEO and co-founder of Metanomic, metaverse is not just a video game, but an ecosystem that offers many possibilities.
Of course there isn’t consensus on the accuracy of what the metaverse is, but I can tell you it’s not a video game; blockchain or not.
This does not preclude what I would warmly describe as ambitious – while some would say unscrupulous; Game companies are looking to join the trend in bringing back the word “metaverse” at every opportunity.
When there is an opportunity, companies want to jump into it to be seen as innovators or leaders who are leading the way to a new era. They seek to create a brand image and extract money from customers.
However, putting the label “metaverse” on an online game is, on the contrary, reductive to the sector. It even risks negatively impacting the almost limitless potential of the virtual world before it has had a chance to shine.
The main danger lies in the fact that users start to believe that the world of games is all that the future and Web3 have to offer. In this case there are countless possibilities.
If we take any experience that is called “metaverse” today, that experience includes little more than an online game or a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). If I see so many MMORPGs in Web3 and metaverse events, it’s because the marketing team saw it as an opportunity to make money by rebranding their product to ride the wave.
A triumvirate of online games that – more reliably than most – have taken their first steps into this digital world without resorting to advertising, these are Fortnite, Roblox and Rec Room.
However, even these companies don’t mention the “M” word or the metaverse moniker in their mission statement:
“Fortnite is a free-to-play Battle Royale game with many game modes for every type of player”.
“Roblox is a global platform that brings players together in games”.
“Room Rec it’s a space to build and play together.”
Do you see the idea? These are games. Sure, they all have a more or less prominent online 3D social element, but the core experience is still easily recognizable as a game, a sandbox concept, or whatever.
This does not prevent them from being popularized as a metaverse by influencers, journalists and bloggers around the world. Websites need to collect clicks, and metaverse is a hot keyword right now. So we refer to online social gaming as the “metaverse” and expect that sweet referral traffic.
Metaverse: gamification is not necessary
Given that much of what will become the metaverse will be a shared online experience, we have to wonder why social media is so prevalent today. Not because we have to imitate existing platforms. Especially not! But to understand what brings people together in a digital environment.
The answer doesn’t lie in inferior first-person shooters or match-3 puzzle games. It’s about interactions between people – not players – either one-on-one, head-to-head or between several people.
The problem is that considering games as the natural basis of the metaverse – for the simple reason that they are already known as interactive 3D environments – we expect that we must “do” something in these virtual worlds. We must have compelling reasons other than just relaxing and spending time together. What if that was reason enough?
Metaverse used to be meta
Believe it or not, there are precedents for spaces like this on the Internet. Launched in 2008, PlayStation Home was above all a place to meet other gamers. Sure, there were mini-games, but the main focus was for the PlayStation tribe to gather, chat, and just “be there.”
Official support ended in 2015, but fan power brought it back to unofficial life last year, thanks to the efforts of Destination home. In collaboration with the fan group Emulated PlayStation Online Network (PSONE), it is now free for anyone who owns a PS3 or emulator. The very fact that this project exists shows the continuing appeal of simply sharing space online with like-minded people.
It turns out to be far more “metaverse” than anything that exists today.
Metaverse and Second Life
Ultimately, the social aspect of the metaverse is about people and interaction. For this reason, Second life remains, in my opinion, superior to Decentraland, The Sandbox and other platforms that have appeared recently. Since its inception 20 years ago, its avatar system has enabled all forms of personal expression, and its marketplace offers literally billions of options.
It is used for educational, but also social and recreational purposes. It allows its users and brands to create almost limitlessly.
345 million transactions are processed annually, bringing in no less than $650 million! If only she had continued pour in in its technology, such as MindArk’s Entropia Universe. While Second Life creeps into creaky architecture, Entropia Universe – which has been around for about the same time – now uses Unreal Engine 5 to keep up with current trends.
But if Web3 companies like Fortnite can reap $800 million in investment for an NFT gaming platform/economy, then Second Life deserves the same levels of investment to future-proof the technology and infrastructure, thus surpassing anything currently on the market.
Appearances can be deceiving…
Even in a time when mental health is front and center and we’re constantly reminded to take time for ourselves, escapism is still seen by many as a waste of time. Sometimes it seems like even our hobbies should be measured by things like clearing levels or getting a high score. It might be fun, but it’s almost as if the creators of the metaverse – by which I mean the big brands – can’t handle the concept of a place where users can do whatever they want.
These companies need to measure things like audience engagement, and “time spent sitting out” is not actionable data. Simply escaping to another VR – whether flat-screen or head-mounted – is considered pointless and therefore must be packed with things to do. Therefore our escape is filled with work, tasks or non-profit activities that pass for gamification. Video games are imposed on us as a metaverse.
Players in the meeting
There will always be avid gamers and there will always be games in the metaverse – and I can’t wait to play them! But this world cannot be reduced to that.
We know what a game looks like in 2022. And if a 3D metaverse looks like a game, it doesn’t have to feel like one. Games are a great starting point for the conversation about the evolution of the metaverse, but for now they risk dominating the debate.
The virtual world represents a true singularity, not only at the level of the various technologies that allow its construction, but also at the level of humanity’s need to be part of it.
Let’s not just make another video game out of it.
About the Author
Theo Priestley is the CEO and co-founder of Metanomic, a company specializing in game economics and player analysis. A world-renowned thought leader in emerging technologies, Theo founded Metanomic in November 2021 while developing his MMO game. He enlisted the help of leading economists and AI experts to build Thunderstruck’s player analytics platform and Metanomic’s economic engine.
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